China angered as US approves frigate sale to Taiwan

China considers self-ruled Taiwan a wayward province, to be brought under its control by force if necessary.

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Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after the Chinese civil war.

US arms sales to democratic Taiwan always attract strong opposition from Beijing, though they have not ended up causing lasting damage to ties between China and the United States or between China and Taiwan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China had lodged a protest with the United States.

“The Chinese side has launched representations with the US State Department demanding the US side give a full account,” Hong told a daily news briefing.

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“The US has said that right now it has no plans to sell weapons to Taiwan and has not issued any statements. China’s position on US arms sales to Taiwan is consistent, clear, and firm,” he added.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the sale was part of a deal reached last year.

The Taiwan Relations Act commits the United States to ensuring Taipei can maintain a credible defense.

“The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region,” the State

Department said in a statement.

The plan comes amid rising concern over China’s deployment of missiles and fighters on a number of artificial islands in the South China Sea. It also announced a rise of 7 per cent to 8 percent in 2016 defense spending from the previous year.

In a rare public comment, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry warned on Wednesday that countries in the region were spending more on bolstering their military strength as tension in the South China Sea increased.

In February, it said missile batteries had been set up on Woody Island in the Paracels chain, which has been under Chinese control for decades but is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.

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China is highly suspicious of Taiwan president-elect Tsai Ing-wen and her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which won elections in January by a landslide.

Tsai assumes office in May.

Last week, President Xi Jinping said China would never allow the historical tragedy of Taiwan being “split” off from the rest of the country to happen again, warning the island against any moves towards formal independence.

Japan ruled Taiwan as a colony for about five decades until the end of World War Two. China’s last dynasty, the Qing, had ceded Taiwan to Japan in 1895 after losing the first Sino-Japanese war.

 

UK press up in arms over Obama comments

The UK media has accused US President Barack Obama of launching an unprecedented attack on British Prime Minister David Cameron over Libya.

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In the interview with The Atlantic, Obama faults Cameron and other allies for shortcomings in dealing with Libya after the 2011 ouster of longtime dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

The Times newspaper said Obama’s criticism was “extraordinary” and The Independent front page headline says “Obama savages Cameron over Libya.”

In the interview, Obama said Cameron had been “distracted” by other issues after Muammar Gaddafi’s fall.

Libya has since descended into lawlessness and become a haven for Islamic State extremists.

White House officials have tried to squelch the controversy by telling the BBC that the United States values Britain’s contributions. The two countries have long been close allies.

The Times newspaper said Obama’s criticism was “extraordinary” and said Obama was blaming Cameron for the “Libya mess.”

The Independent front page headline says “Obama savages Cameron over Libya.”

In the magazine interview, Obama said Cameron had been “distracted” by other issues after Gaddafi’s fall.

Britain and other European nations had joined the US in military action there to prevent a massacre of civilians. Obama told the magazine he had expected European nations to take a more active role in helping Libya during its reconstruction.

“When I go back and I ask myself what went wrong there’s room for criticism, because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up,” he said.

Libya has since descended into chaos and emerged as a potential safe haven for Islamic State extremists.

US officials have tried to squelch the controversy by telling British media that the United States places a high priority on Britain’s support.

“Prime Minister Cameron has been as close a partner as the president has had, and we deeply value the UK’s contributions on our shared national security and foreign policy objectives which reflect our special and essential relationship,” spokesman Edward Price told ITV News.

The two countries have long been close allies with a so-called “special relationship” exemplified by the close cooperation between Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt during World War II.

Franklin stars in Swans AFL pre-season win

Sydney star Lance Franklin has roared back to AFL form with a dominant performance in their pre-season win over Carlton.

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The key forward capped a busy summer campaign with clearly his best game of the NAB Challenge as the Swans won by 22 points on Friday night at Etihad Stadium.

Franklin kicked three goals, took seven marks and had five score assists in the 0.14.7 (91) to 1.8.12 (69) win.

The 29-year-old took an extended break from the game late last season because of mental health issues and missed Sydney’s finals campaign.

Unusually for such a prominent player, Franklin has been on the field for nearly all their intra-club and NAB Challenge hitouts.

But the Swans felt he needed the work and on Friday night, Franklin reaped the benefits.

It was a telling moment in his comeback to the game.

“He played a pretty good game tonight,” coach John Longmire said.

“He’s had a good pre-season, he ran well, there’s probably a couple of marks he missed, in the end he could have had an even bigger night.

“I just thought the signs with him tonight looked pretty good. He’ll get better, no doubt.”

The Swans have experimented in the past few weeks with Franklin in the midfield, but against Carlton he played his usual key forward role.

“We’ve had a couple of discussions about it as coaches,” Longmire said.

“I always put the opposition coach’s hat on – where would you like him? Probably out of the forward 50.”

After Franklin’s well-documented challenges, Longmire said the team was just happy to have him back and working so well.

“He’s done everything, he’s done much more than he’s ever done,” Longmire said.

Swans midfielder Dan Hannebery was best afield with 37 possessions.

Josh Kennedy finished the game with an ice pack on his calf, which Longmire said was not unusual.

But Zac Jones also hurt his knee.

While Carlton are winless after the pre-season, there were also plenty of positives for them on Friday night.

After Sydney romped to a 39-point lead in the second term, the Blues turned the game around impressively.

Patrick Cripps and Sam Kerridge, who kicked three goals, stood out.

No.1 draft pick Jacob Weitering went onto Franklin briefly in the third term and spoiled him twice.

Weitering is a lock for their round-one Easter Thursday blockbuster against Richmond.

Canberra Week in Review 11 March

No election date has been set, but the major parties appear to already be in campaign mode.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has spent most of his week in South Australia. 

The tour began in Adelaide where the federal government committed $230 million towards an investment in defence.    

“The Centre for Defence Industry Capability will be established here in Adelaide. This centre will ensure that the businesses, the innovators, the food growers of the future, are able to connect with defence.” 

Mr Turnbull was joined by Defence Minister Marise Payne, who declined to confirm whether Australian offshore patrol vessels will be built in South Australia.

“As you’d be aware there is a competitive evaluation process underway. We indicated that the $30 billion Future Frigate Program would be based here in Adelaide, and that the offshore patrol vessels would be engaged in a competitive evaluation process slightly differently from that. Those results will be announced later in the year.” 

The latest Newspoll remains unchanged with both the Coalition and Labor 50-50 in two party preferred terms. 

Mr Turnbull’s personal approval rating, though, is starting to slide – but he remains overwhelmingly the preferred prime minister. 

“I’ll leave you to plough through the entrails of the polling results. There are so many talented commentators on the opinion polls, I’ll leave it to you. It’ll stick to my job.”  

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten spent his week in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales.

Along the way he endorsed candidates in marginal seats – starting here with the island state.

“It’s fantastic to be in Deloraine, and I encourage all Australians to visit Deloraine.// It is a real privledge to be here at Marina Radiology Services.//It’s great to be here with Anne Charlton Labor’s candidate for Robertson.” 

Continued media speculation that the government may be considering bringing forward the federal budget to allow for a double dissolution election, possibly in July, seems to have Labor on the attack.

Sending Australians to the polls early would also mean a gruelling seven-week election campaign. 

Mr Shorten sees it as a wasteful move.

“I don’t want Mr Turnbull wasting taxpayer money on political stunts to try and keep Mr Turnbull in power. Australians already know division and dysfunction is at the heart of the Turnbull government.”

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott made headlines when detailed claims about his government emerged in a new book.  

Author and political journalist Nicky Savvy focused on the relationship between Mr Abbott his long-time Chief of Staff Peta Credlin.  

Ms Credlin and Mr Abbott both hit back dismissing the accusations they had an affair as nothing more than gossip. 

Ms Savva says the two contributed significantly to the demise of Mr Abbott’s government.   

“(SAVVA) If he had been doing a good job, if his judgement was flawless, if the judgement of his chief of staff was flawless – they would still be there. They’re not. (JOURNALIST) Is this book a nail in the coffin for Tony Abbott – we won’t see him coming back from this? (SAVVA) Who knows.” 

Not entirely unexpected in some Canberra quarters was the political comeback of former independent MP Tony Windsor. 

Mr Windsor left office in 2013, but has been dabbling with the idea of returning to challenge Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce for the Northern NSW seat of New England. 

He finally played his hand in a characteristically-long press conference.                       

“I’ve decided after much consultation – particularly with my family, particularly with my wife who I have the uTmost respect for – and we as a team have decided to run for the seat of New England.” 

Tony Windsor is a popular figure in the electorate having won more than 60 per cent of first preference votes in the 2010 federal election.  

That said, he knows he has a big job ahead of him to convince voters he is once again worthy of office.     

“We’ll mount a full-scale, grassroots campaign, and I’m fully aware that it’ll be a David and Goliath event, and I’m looking forward to that, and I’ll need the help of as many people I can get. Both within and outside the electorate.”

Quoting some of what Mr Windsor had said about him, Barnaby Joyce claims he’s ready for the fight. 

“‘I’m a crazy right winger, I’m deputy dog, I’m this I’m that and something else.’ People don’t want that. That’s what everyone from my mother to my mother-in-law tells me. People want us to be dignified and lets continue on like that.” 

It’s expected to be a tight contest. 

But if preferences from Country Labor, the Greens and other independent candidates flow Mr Windsor’s way he could get over the line.